This is my Dad’s cricket hat. He wore it all the time, even though he never went outside and he hadn’t played cricket for 15 years. It really suited him.
He is the reason I do this job. He had quite extreme mental health conditions throughout his life- when he was younger he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and as he got older it became bipolar disorder. They basically couldn’t put him in a box. He had wild episodes of mania that would last months and periods of depression that lasted years. The doctors said they hadn’t seen such an extreme case. In the 70s he had electric shock treatment which he was still very angry about in his 60s. He would get the train to London to talk to the Prime Minister and give away his jumper and guitar to homeless people on the way. He would burgle our house and give away the stuff to new families on the street. Once he ran away and lived at Piccadilly Station for a couple of weeks and wrote me poems every day and left the last line free so I could finish it off (I could never find the words). When he was in hospital he thought he was Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, playing a game, like he wanted to be there. He looked just like him too. The staff and patients loved him; he was very charismatic.
When my parents split up he got a council flat and some benefits and he stayed active in his local community, ferrying kids to the seaside for Bolton Community Transport and being a care worker. His law degree hung up in the bathroom, never used. He had an episode in 2000 that he never really recovered from, and then he didn’t really leave his flat for 15 years. He became the roots of our family tree, like an Ent from Lord of the Rings. He died 5 years ago.
My Dad had a huge loving family that were able to care for him. He was allowed to take time out from life to be poorly then get stuck back in, being a valued member of his community and family. He was afforded this life because of things like the welfare benefits system, social housing, mental health care and all those things that keep a person going. And that’s why I like to help people do these things.